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American Society of Landscape Architects


December 2005 Issue

Leaving History Where It Lies
A new British Columbia housing development retains the past without preserving it.

By Clair Enlow

Leaving History Where It Lies
Perry + Associates

Imperial Landing, a dense, new suburban community in Richmond, just south of Vancouver, B.C., was built around the remains of an old fishing and processing center at the mouth of the Fraser River. Most of the old industrial complex has been cleared away and replaced by sturdy new walkways and green space.

But unlike the usual new-over-old redevelopment, the gritty, timeworn reminders of the past have not been obliterated. Inside a 40-acre park, a hundred years of history are etched into the ground. A half-mile-long boardwalk that supports strollers, fitness seekers, and picnickers steps lightly over an artificial cove, boat basins, and foundations, heading toward an old loft building that awaits restoration. Along the way, it passes groves of pilings—blackened and falling gradually back into the river’s edge—that once supported a small city of commerce. These pilings were very important to the evolution of the industry: They held up the cannery buildings themselves and brought them into direct contact with the boats that plied their nets in the mouth of the river, and they have been kept as part of the visible history of the site.

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